Today we find out exactly how much train fares will increase in January next year. Over the course of the last Parliament regulated train fares, which include season tickets, increased by almost 25% whilst wages stagnated, increasing just 9% in the same time, meaning financial hardship for many people just trying to get to work.
Campaign for Better Transport's Fair Fares Now campaign has been calling for cheaper, fairer and simpler train fares for years and we welcomed the Conservative party's manifesto pledge before the general election to hold fare increases at the rate of inflation for the next five years should they get into Government. Today's announcement will be the lowest increase for over a decade, but this is not a ‘freeze' as some people have described it, it just means your train fares will be increasing more slowly than they did in the recent past. And there is still so much more that must be done, to give rail users what they want: an affordable and reliable railway for everyone.
The Government and train companies must now honour their promise made in 2013 to introduce affordable fares and ticketing for part time and flexible workers. Since then, feet have been dragged and progress has completely stalled, and we are seemingly now no further along towards a nationwide flexible ticketing scheme than we were before the commitment was made.
The need for part time and flexible season tickets is greater than ever. Over 8 million people are now working part time and almost 75% of these are women, often balancing work and family life. Working from home is also on the increase. There are now a record 4.2 million UK home workers amounting to 13.9% of the workforce. Having the flexibility to choose to work from the office or from home is vital for productivity and growth, two priorities the Government doesn't stop talking about.
This army of part time workers is hit by a triple whammy of costs. While train fares have increased much faster than wages for the past decade, house prices have skyrocketed in many parts of the UK, and the cost of childcare, important for so many part time workers, has increased by 30% since 2009. It is important to remember that part time workers get paid two thirds less than full time workers on average, so something must be done not only to support existing part time work, but also to encourage more people into work, so that taking on these extra costs is to be worthwhile to jobseekers. The Government can start by making rail travel more affordable.
Currently commuters are limited to a choice of buying a season ticket or single journey tickets. Season tickets only provide savings when used for five out of seven days. If a four day a week annual season ticket was available at four-fifths the price of a regular one, it would save commuters using it to come into London £800 on average, with a three day ticket saving an average £1,600 a year. Commuters travelling into Manchester could save £230 on a four day ticket and £465 on a three day one. People commuting into Bristol could save almost £400 on a four day ticket and £780 on a three day ticket.
Making rail travel more affordable could encourage people out of their cars and if implemented properly could further incentivise people to travel outside the morning peak. The key blockage as we see it is that Train Operating Companies believe that flexible ticketing will lose them money. We have the opposite view, that simplification and flexibility will drive growth and ultimately increase revenue for train companies, as has been seen with the introduction of Oyster and flexible ticketing by Transport for London.
We are also lagging way behind Europe on affordable and flexible rail tickets. We looked at 21 European countries and 20 had flexible ticketing that made commuting more affordable for part time workers. Countries such as Northern Ireland, Luxemburg, Germany and France all have flexible ticketing. The Government and train operators must explain why are we still waiting.
Today we have launched a petition calling on the Government and train operating companies to stop dragging their feet and give commuters affordable and flexible ticketing once and for all.